Archive for March, 2012

Originally the song began,’what would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me?’ The Beatles changed the lyrics for obvious reasons. Not that they would have sang out of tune I’m sure.

I had to duck yesterday as abuse poured in from the public gallery during my trial, it rarely happens to me actually but ‘Silk Cut’ assures me that it’s better to be abused than applauded. The first person to my defence was actually the Prosecutor, who made it clear that contempt proceedings would be heading their way if they carried on.

I didn’t have to say a word. And I didn’t worry as I was on ‘local turf’, the Magistrates’ Court which I started my career in, where I know all the prosecutors, the court clerks, security and even large quantities of the local constabulary. ‘John Bull’ was downstairs. One feels safer when surrounded by friends.

 Odd mob

I went to my Aunt’s retirement/birthday party this week, a brief visit between, well, briefs. The most striking thing is what a diverse group of friends she has, from civil servants to fantasy writers and actors. My own friends are equally an odd mob and go from city boys to novelists to death row exonerees.

Last night there was a mixed bag out. ‘John Bull’ and ‘Pretty Boy’ both complained about their FTD sobriquets. ‘Pretty Boy’ positing his complaint in the same week that he’s having elective lazer eye surgery so that he never has to wear glasses again…. no comment. Or in the same week that a girl just popped down from the North of England to have dinner with him…hmmm.

And, ‘Almost Giant’ complained that he is sans sobriquet as did ‘Furry Face’. Whilst they complained, ‘John Bull’ and ‘Pretty Boy’ had out the smart phones googling for references to themselves in earlier blogs.

This doesn’t all lead to a, ‘oh look how lovely it is, to have such a lovely mob of friends’ type of blog post. Although, yes, they’re all darling etc etc.

No, instead, my mob, my Aunt’s mob, the depth, breadth, diversity made me think that there’s something a little more dangerous in the air. Whilst the rest of the world is falling out and individual interest takes prime position, there are groups who are starting to buddy up together.

And friends form a much stronger phalanax against an enemy then persons paid to, or persuaded to stand shoulder to shoulder. The odd companions who stand together through friendship are a much stronger mob.

A far right friendship

So, when one reads about the tea party Europe’s fair right have enjoyed today, one can only feel a little nervous. Although only a few individuals have travelled to Denmark for the meeting, those that have represent far right grounds from all over Europe, including members from England’s own EDL. They have been joined by far right groups from Germany, Sweden, Poland, Norway and of course their host country Denmark. It comes in the same week that an Al Qaida inspired gunman struck in France and the German Security Services accepted that they have a difficulty with active neo-nazi cells committing racially aggravated murder.

The difficulty which the American far right has always had is that it has never been able to unify behind a single doctrine or into a single organisation. The same is true for the English far right who have repeatedly turned inwards on each other and broken down.

The danger comes if a network of non-competing far right groups get friendly. That seems to have been what is reflected in Denmark today. And of course, the economic and political conditions which exist in Europe at present are such that the far right really could take advantage. Combine that with modern communication methods, in particular, skype, twitter, facebook etc, they can communicate and co-ordinate efforts in a global way.

Perhaps as ever  I am worrying about nothing, because today a group of various campaigners from different causes came together to protest against the far right’s international gathering. And the counter protest had the weight of the numbers again as they do here.

Worse comes to worse and the far right does make a come back, I’ll be first up the mountain with my mob, ‘climb every mountain’ and all that jazz, probably do without the lederhosen.

FTD

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In the last few weeks I’ve heard mention of a case I knew nothing about before: R v Simon Hall. And, I should say before I go any further, I’m not briefed in the case and have only seen a selection of the papers.

But,

From what I’ve seen, I’ve got the awkward itch. The itch I get when a case doesn’t make sense.

The case

Late in the evening of Friday 15 December 2001 or early in the morning of Saturday 16 December 2001 an elderly lady was murdered. Her name was Joan Albert. She was stabbed five times. She died in her house’s hallway.

The next year, in the summer of 2002 a local lad was arrested, his name is Simon Hall.

The case against Simon Hall is not the strongest, in fact, the Director of Public Prosecutions himself said of the case that it is: “really peculiar, because there is no particular reason to suspect he is guilty of this offence, there are lots and lots of question marks. There is one crucial link and that’s the fibre evidence, and that’s what holds the whole case together. It’s a very odd case, it’s circumstantial, break that central piece of evidence and the case falls apart.”

It’s right that Simon Hall would have known where Joan Albert lived. His mother did errands for her. And, as a child he visited the neighbours. Simon Hall would have known that she was vulnerable.

And perhaps at the time of her murder, Simon Hall cannot account for his movements exactly. The time of death being unknown pretty much renders this point moot.

But yes, it was those fibres that Kier Starmer mentioned that were the centre of the case at trial and on appeal. Effectively, fibres which are said to be from a pair of trousers which were found in Simon Hall’s car and in a cupboard at his home were found in the hallway of Joan Albert’s house.

The CSI effect

Prosecutors complain that since CSI has had its many incarnations blasted over the airways that it’s harder to get a conviction. They might have a point, but I think it cuts both ways. Whenever there is some forensic evidence in the point is often blinds people from other issues and takes on more signficance then it really has.

If you want to look at the forensic evidence yourself then please google the case, it’s widely argued on various websites.

My itch

I’ve not left anything out honest. There was knowledge of the victim, there was possibly a window of opportunity and potentially forensic evidence.

If we’re having a CSI moment, I like at least two disciplines to be present, fingerprints and DNA for example. But here, there’s no fingerprints, nor any DNA. Oh, and even though the perpetrator broke in via  glass window there were no glass shards found on Simon Hall’s clothing.

And motive? Well it’s got to be money, it’s a big step for any burglar to kill. And, isn’t it odd that Simon Hall was not shown to be in any great need of cash. If he was to burgle, would he burgle someone he knew?

There was no link to the murder weapon in terms of ownership or evidence of possession.

Of course, there were no witnesses, nor any CCTV.

No direct witnesses anyway. At 2am, when Hall has a clear alibi, various neighbours heard a large crashing sound.

Oh, and only 10 minutes away an elderly man was burgled on the same evening. What was taken during that burglary? At least one knife, a knife that appeared very similar to the murder weapon.

Uncomfortable yet?

The Court of Appeal were not, but they were just considering the forensic evidence.

The CCRC are uncomfortable, they are looking again at the case.

My invitation to you is to get to know Simon Hall’s case, see how you feel about it. After an hour or so reading and digesting, I imagine that you too might feel that awkward itch.

FTD

Let’s face it, George Osborne is still frantically fingering his 1982 casio classic calculator. The ink on the first few pages of the budget are still wet and the gaffer tape is being applied to the corners of the old red box.

And whilst he’s trying to find some pennies and pence to pay for soldiers’ boots and an extra hybrid car for Sepp Blatter’s Olympic visit, FTD is here to help.

I have some simple ways he can free up your tax cash:

1. Time to remand the Bail Act in custody

We’ve all been there, it’s a Saturday morning, there are 30 people in the cells, and half them are there for offences you haven’t heard of. Every time a custody sergeant or a magistrate locks someone up the costs go through the roof, transporting them to Court, cell staff at court and ultimately a prison place until trial, it can run to thousands of pounds.

Overnight, I’ll save you millions Georgie:

Make bail an absolute right for non-imprisonable offences: If after trial they aint going to be locked up, don’t lock ’em up before, don’t waste my money.

Write a letter to every Magistrate making this clear: being homeless is not a ground for remanding someone in custody: Every day there is the same argument across the country. Some magistrates and some prosecutors have imagined a phantom law, a law which does not exist – that if you cannot provide an address, you cannot have bail – rubbish. Stop locking people up for months on end because they are homeless, it is a waste of time and money.

2. Let dinner ladies investigate the playground punch up, not a detective

I have no idea what New Labour thought they were doing with Youth Justice. On one hand they tried to push rehabilitation and diversion and on the other they required every playground punch up to end up in a criminal trial.

I am fed up of school yard litigation. We do not need police officers permanently based in schools, instead, we need properly trained teachers who can deal with discipline.

The CPS should be told to refuse to charge all summary offences that occur between school children on school premises. They ought to be told that there has to be a real, strong, public interest reflected in statute/sentencing for pursuing either way offences that occur between school children on school premises.

Every youth trial from a school setting is expensive in terms of man power: teachers, lawyers, police officers, specialist magistrates/District Judges – less of them.

3. More prison for prisoners

Well they may have cut the legal aid for the lawyers defending in prison law adjudications, but they are still doing them.  Imagine a hearing, where you don’t have a prosecutor, have no real disclosure, no real facilities and yet requires because of the potential penalties, a Judge and a defence lawyer.

Sending  judges on prison law courses is expensive. As too is requiring them to go to prisons in the middle of no where. And then of course there’s the punishment they had out to prisoners, extra days in prisons, and for every extra day in prison there is an extra bill to the tax payer.

Remove added days in prison as a punishment for prisoners.

Oh and as for prisoners who commit ‘criminal’ offences.  Again, let’s get real. CPS should not be prosecuting simple common assaults/thefts/criminal damages that occur in a custodial setting. There is a prison discipline system, keep them there.

Summary offences and most either way offences can be dealt with in the prison adjudication system, let’s limit prison governor’s discretion to send them out to the police.

 4. Possession is 9 tenths of the law

Too much time in the criminal justice system is spent prosecuting people for simple possession of illegal substances. The system should focus on those who supply and produce illegal drugs. Set a possession threshold. If someone has less than a certain amount, arrest them, deprive them of the drugs and refer them to a drugs worker.

The new drugs guideline gives you an idea of how courts will deal with possession matters. http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/Drug_Offences_Definitive_Guideline_final_%28web%29.pdf

Small amounts, with little aggravating features should rarely attract prosecution as it is. It’s not cost effective in prosecuting people when all they are likely to receive is a discharge, a fine, or a low level community order.

5. We have the technology

Every day of the week people are locked up without a need for rehabilitation but as a punitive measure. I don’t necessarily disagree with that per se. Imagine someone who continually ignores a community order. Or, for example someone who has killed due to dangerous driving or such like.

Where it gets harder and where I struggle, is when people are locked up who pose very little if any risk to the public/society-at-large.

As seen above and mentioned so many times in public, prison is expensive.

The punishment aspect of prison is the loss of liberty. You can curtail someone’s liberty with relative ease: curfew/house arrest. We have the technology, electronically monitored curfews. Not only is a tagged curfew cheaper to prison it has other positive economic impacts:

– Avoid children being taken into care of the state.

– Avoids employers having to retrain and re-advertise for employees.

– Avoids council property/social housing having to sit empty, or to be repossessed (with the requisite emptying and cleaning.) It also avoids rehousing a person upon their release.

– Allows a person to continue contributing economically to the micro and macro economy.

-If a person is receiving continuing medical treatment it allows for that treatment to be sustained without the need to repeat diagnostics, or incurring the costs of security and transport to treatment centres.

I’m sure the list could continue.

SO there we have, in 5 short methods ways to save thousands and thousands of pounds. Some will no doubt comment and argue but they allow people to break the law, to avoid proper punishment, or even put the public at risk. But in a time where cuts are so swathing, it is necessary to be pragmatic and to be innovative.

There you have it George, 5 quick financial fixes

FTD.

 

 

 

I realised the other day that I hadn’t done any prison law in months. It didn’t really worry me, when barristers are busy they don’t really worry at all.

But then I spoke to a QC in chambers. In terms of prison law, she’s one of the stars and has done some of the most interesting cases. She was asking me how I was doing with prison law, and I told her, she said I’m not alone. Even she has very few prison law instructions.

In terms of prison law practitioners, there were never many of us in the first place. And of the prison law lawyers, only a few did the whole ambit of prison law. In a basic sense prison law has two aspects: advocacy relating to release and litigation relating to conditions. The advocacy aspect was parole boards and adjudications (mini criminal trials in prison), the litigation aspect was amazingly varied from a prisoner’s security category to their rights to have visitors from their family.

And in terms of clients, prisoners are some of the most vulnerable. A prisoner can’t just pop down the local high street and visit the local solicitor or law centre. If they’re denied legal aid, they can’t sell assets or ask family members and friends to help them out. Nor can they visit the local university’s law clinic to ask law students to help for free.

Prison law: a potted history

In all honesty, there’s not much to the history of prison law.

In short:

Habeas Corpus Act 1640

Somersett’s Case 1771

Abolition of debtors’ prison 1869

Abolition of death penalty act 1965

But since then there has been an explosion of litigation.  A cadre of dedicated advice workers, solicitors, barristers and campaigners have pushed the envelopes of the minimum standards that prisoners can expect. They have fought to eradicate racism in prisons and to recognise that women prisoners have particular rights specific to their gender.

And to get to that point? A fraction of the legal aid budget, a very small fraction indeed. Every solicitors firm with a criminal contract were allowed to practice in prison law.

But then

With a populist stroke of a civil servant’s pen the outlook changed. Rates for prison law work were cut and firms were required to apply for a specialist contract. Each firm had to have a supervisor with large amounts of experience to supervise their prison law output.

The result? Overnight prison law practitioners shut up shop. Solicitors who had been practicing prison law were sent back to the Magistrates’ Court to fill duty solicitor slots. No new practices could be opened as they could not find the personnel to act as supervisors.

The net result? Less capacity.

Rights with an expiry date

Rights are useless without lawyers to enforce their recognition. I spent fifteen minutes or so trying to find training contracts being advertised for new solicitors to practice in prison law, I couldn’t find any. In terms of pupillage, I found four pupillages with a prison law aspect in chambers and two at solicitors’ firms with a prison law aspect.

But of course there has to be work for those pupils to do otherwise all they will do is learn from their pupil masters and when they’re off on their own have no hope of accessing any work to build on their own practical skills. If those pupils cannot find prison law work then they will be forced to abandon it as a practice area.

Charities will not be able to fill the gap. American prison law litigation (which is at least two or three decades between our own) is funded via charity subscription, mostly through the ACLU, but here there isn’t the same option. English prison law litigation is expensive. The Prisoners’ Advice Service, the Howard League and the Public Law Project all maintain legal staff, they do so as charities, they couldn’t on top pay for the litigation they undertake, they need legal aid.

Pro bono? Can you imagine city law firms dedicating time to represent prisoners? Hardly as great a photo opportunity as mentoring children in Tower Hamlets.

And on the other side

The Treasury Solicitors who represent the Government against these campaigns are still recruiting trainee solicitors and pupil barristers. In addition, the Treasury Solicitors run a ‘baby barrister’ scheme so that new barristers are exposed to public law litigation which will include prison law claims.

They cynic in me wonders whether there’s more to all this than meets the eye. Prison law and prisoners’ rights are never popular, especially not in the media. The prisoners’ right to vote cases have embarrassed both the present government and the previous government.

But yet, the prison law budget, although a fraction of the legal aid budget has had such minute examination. Oh, and I should point out, that examination started before I joined the Bar, before the cuts to other services all began.

The result of the above is simple. There’s a countdown on those prisoners’ rights that we have invested in over recent times. They will soon become worthless if there are now new lawyers to enforce and protect those rights.

FTD.

Two days ago the CPS inspectorate announced that there was a quality gap between the advocacy skills of the CPS lawyers compared to those in private practice. In the Magistrates’ Court one of the areas which needs to be improved is cross examination.

I’m sorry, cross examination? For non-lawyers, cross examination is where one asks questions of the other side’s witnesses. So for your average CPS Mags’ Court prosecutor, asking the Defendant questions.

I’m sorry, but, cross examination, although an art at the higher end of things, is a pretty rudimentary skill in the Magistrates. If there’s a problem there, then there’s real problems.

When I was first on my feet I never thought that I outgunned the local CPS. Things balanced out, yes they were busy and had less preparation time, but I was green and still learning.

Now?

Frightening

I’ve been back in the Magistrates’ Court for two days this week. For two trials. I won both. Not because I wear a wig for a living, not because I went to Oxford, not because I’m sneaky, not because I’m lucky, not because of anything to do with me… (and worse, not necessarily due to the evidence!)

…but with them.

During both trials, the CPS in-house Prosecutor sent texts on their iPhone.

Neither brought a practitioner text into Court.

And neither had any recent authorities at their mental or physical fingertips.

In the first trial a lay bench had to explain the meaning of hearsay to the prosecutor as she continually attempted to adduce it, to the extent that the Chair of the Bench had to stop a witness and bark – ‘no, we’re not allowed to hear it.’

And today, during my half-time submission the announcement from the Prosecutor which left everyone in Court stunned, ‘this isn’t the Crown Court, you don’t have to prove all the elements of the offence.’ The Legal Advisor, stood up and advised the Magistrates immediately that they must ignore what she said, the Magistrates were in shock and much to my pleasant surprise, the Chair of the Bench announced – ‘it’s the same offence here as in the Crown Court, you still have to make us sure, and you have to make us sure of  all the elements of the offence – the rules of evidence still apply.’

The first 6 pupil I have had with me to learn about the Magistrates’ Court cannot believe what he’s seeing and asked me if it’s always like this.

No, it’s not always been like this…

The reality is with money being cut the CPS have fewer available staff and have a much smaller budget for bringing in barristers.

The CPS extradition unit is Rolls Royce, all the lawyers are very good and are well resourced. My experience too of the terrorism team and the mass public disorder guys are the same.

But of course extradition is high profile and potentially has diplomatic impact. And, big scale public order offences are heavily featured in the media.

Yet, the reality is for man or woman on the street that they are not going to be involved in that type of case. They are going to have seen a shoplifting, or be a victim in a pub brawl, they will rely on the in-house CPS advocate.

And the reality is? Lawyers who joined the CPS to litigate, not advocate, have been sent out to the Magistrates. The experienced lawyers in the Magistrates’ Court are being promoted into management roles and away from the Courts. Or, those experienced lawyers are being forced into taking their Higher Rights and being made to process high volume hearings in the Crown Court.

And they’re being expected to do more. They’ll soon have to prosecute everything for the UKBA, they’ve already had to take in all the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions.

So, actually, I think they’re being expected to do a lot, too much.

And can they attract the talent? When I was coming to the Bar, the CPS were offering pupillage, it paid more than I would have got at the independent bar, would have given me a pension and better working conditions. Experienced barristers too were being brought in, offered decent salaries and a pension and a better work life balance, but that has ended too.

The solution?

Certainly not throwing more and more abuse at the CPS. And not throwing more cases at them!

1) Give power back to the prosecutor. Barristers with 20 or 30 years experience are no longer in control of cases. The specialist advocate before she makes a decision has to phone the CPS office and ask permission to do things. That advocate commands the fee (which is still, not great) that they do because of their speciality, give them the power back.

2) Get real(istic). Just because a case involves a domestic element, or a racial element does not mean it automatically has to be prosecuted. There’s a strong public interest in prosecuting these offences, but it doesn’t mean there’s strong enough evidence. Far too many cases come to court which have no hope of success.

3) Go it alone. The Government need to butt out of prosecuting as do the police. The DPP is not a member of the cabinet, he is not an MP. He is a civil servant and like other civil servants he ought to be able to enjoy the independence of the civil service. Cut the KPIs. As too, should the police realise they are not instructing the CPS. The opposite. Police officers should not be able to ‘appeal’ the decisions of prosecutors. Officers-in-charge of cases are not lawyers, they do not know better than the CPS, they should not be able to apply pressure for them to take a certain course.

Justice gap

A gap in quality of advocacy causes a risk of a gap in justice. I don’t want to win cases simply because my opponent is a shattered individual who never wanted to be an advocate.

The CPS are not bad lawyersfar from it. But they are lawyers who are being expected to do jobs they never wanted to do, or were trained to do. Now, they’ll be prosecuting in higher courts, with new offences they have no experience of.

Do what the private prosecutors do (RSPCA, local authorities etc) focus prosecutions, really review them and properly fund them. Don’t push prosecutions through because it’ll win political points, even if it doesn’t win cases.

My view will always be, it’s better that 100 guilty people go free than 1 innocent person is imprisoned.

The view of the prosecutor should be, it’s better to let 20 s.5/drunk and disorder cases go unprosecuted than a serious assault/burglary collapse for want of resources.

FTD

West Midlands Police already have a corporate looking website. They found their most photogenic bobby and got him to pose with a radio. Then they got a couple of friendly looking PCSOs and took a picture of them talking to a member of the public.

Standard.

Oh, and they’ve got a motto too,

‘Serving our communities, protecting them from harm.’

Again, fair enough.

Twitter is all a flitter

But, West Midlands Police are causing quite a stir. They’ve deployed their PR folk on a Saturday.

Why? Because of the announcement that West Midlands Police are exploring the value of business partnership to the Police Service? In English, over the next 10 years they will pay a private sector company £1.5 billion to perform police functions.

Read their press release here:

http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/latest-news/press-release.asp?ID=3219

Sounds harmless I suppose? I mean, guarding crime scenes? Picking up CCTV? Both of these tasks are investigative tasks.

Crime scenes are guarded in case of further forensic analysis, to note the return of suspects, to deal with potential witnesses. And, if you knew the hours of court time was spent on CCTV collection and playback then you would know it’s not a tiny task.

And although the PR bods at West Midlands have used those examples, I would suggest you read the fine print. I’d love to be able to, but I can’t find the sodding notice, even though I have read the supplement of the journal and googled until I can google no more. No doubt one of you will be able to provide a link.

But, when questioned, one of the PRs let slip, yes, there might be an element of patrolling involved too from these security guards.

Scarecrows

Without legislation, these individuals employed by the police will be little more than security guards. They will not be able to arrest individuals more than you and I can, they will not be able to detain persons more than you and I can – effectively, you’ve got the local old fella from Asdas on the street corner, with a hat on, paid for by your taxes.

And I tell you what, if you need that visual reassurance on your street corner, then go for it. But pay for it yourself, get together with your neighbours and sign a contract. That’s what happens in the US. In my apartment building we paid for security. In my girlfriend’s neighbourhood, they paid for a private security company to patrol.

Scarecrows. I’d rather not pay a private company for that with my taxes.

The dangers

There is no doubt that this is the thin end of the wedge.

But this is the reality, these scarecrows will mess up. Not because they’re bad people, but because they will be low salaried, low skilled and low trained. They will contaminate crime scenes. They will prejudice investigations. They will injure members of the public and they will fail to protect them. They will not build a bank of skills and experience as they will not do the job for life. There will be no working culture (maybe not a terrible thing).

And for our clients

Don’t get me wrong, there are still ‘wrong-uns’ in the police force. But there are many methods of seeing that the police are accountable. Those methods fade away when you start bringing profit into equation. Decisions are not made through duty, but through cost efficiency.

And, my experience of dealing with private prisons has never been good. Corners are cut. Continuity is non-existent. Force is used disproportionately. The management fear external scrutiny and are extremely poor at engaging with stakeholders. And, where do I start when it comes to diversity issues…

…oh and let’s look at the present provisions from private contractors. Prisoners regularly arrive at Court late, sometimes they do not arrive at all, the private contractor does not care. Why? Because they build the fine they receive into their business plans.

The risk to my clients is clear. They will be subjected to unlawful force, they will have their investigations jeopardised. And if the ‘private investigator’ is one of those ‘wrong-uns’ they’ll be harder to detect if they falsify evidence/act unlawfully.

Time for the police to parle with the old enemy

It’s in the interests of my clients and the public at large for this development in the West Midlands to be put to bed quickly and not replicated.

But if the police want to protect their position, then they will need to speak to the dark side. Yep, us. Because otherwise they risk being dismissed as self-interested civil servants protecting themselves.

There are some in the police ranks who scoff at defence lawyers and action against the police lawyers like me. A number of police officers think that Liberty are the devil and want anarchy on our streets.

But imagine, imagine how strong the opposition could be to the privatisation of the police if both the cops and counsel spoke out. Imagine if Liberty and the Police Federation could agree a united stance on the issue.

The police could not be dismissed as being self-interested.

We couldn’t be dismissed as being bleeding heart liberals.

I certainly won’t be buying shares in Plod PLC,

FTD

 

 

 

 

Tonight on BBC Question Time, Dr David Starkey described the NHS as the ‘Holy Cow.’ Something which politicians can’t think about sensibly.

I think it’s quite the contrary. I think people spend too much time thinking about the NHS.

The NHS seems to have become our country’s new religion. There are different versions of the same church. There are those who believe that each hospital should be gilded, there are others who believe that it should be there as a bare minimum.

From the ashes of World War II, it became a new focus of hope. No longer were people about securing an afterlife, but instead, securing a long a life as possible, avoiding death as long as possible.

Health is really important. Everybody deserves to be happy and healthy. But,

There are other things

The Government is not established as an executive board of the NHS, they are the executive board of the United Kingdom.

The tune of this blog is about the justice system. The law in this country is important. The law requires radical change. I’m going to stop there, I write about that virtually everyday.

But there are things we don’t spend enough time (and indeed money) on.

Homeless people

We have been trying to deal with homeless people in this country since the 16th century. We have had 600 years of trying different models and we have failed to solve the problem.

I wish we spent more time talking about those homeless people.

Education

Since the 14th century we have had two of the most impressive academic universities in the world. We now have even more, the Russell Group of universities are 20 of the world’s finest educational institutions.

But, despite this, there are towns and cities which have no good public funded schools. There are individuals who leave the school system without any proper qualifications. There are children who leave primary school without basic literacy skills.

I wish we spent more time talking about the educational divide.

Military

We have had a standing army and navy in different forms for probably, what, 800 years? The purpose of that military still is not clear. I have written about this previously.

I support the maintenance of a military force. Do you? What do you think the military is for?

We have the third highest military spending in the world. We have young men and women dying overseas in that military. But let’s be clear why we’re spending the money and why those individuals are dying.

I wish we spent more time talking about the purpose of armed forces and our covenant towards our service personnel.

International matters

If I want to, I can speak to somebody in China instantly. I have recently been instructed by a foreign government. I am often instructed in cases where my client is wanted by a foreign government.

We live in a global community. Economic problems have been global problems for the last 80 years. Climate change and energy security are global problems.

International institutions are on the rise, surely we need to talk about that?

Question time

Is a great programme. It frustrates me how much time is spent talking about our new domestic religion. I think most of us are worshipers in the Church of the NHS, yes, we have our different sects, but we wouldn’t give as much air time, or column inches, or indeed money to deciding on whether Catholicism or Anglicanism is the right version of the same religion.

More time needs to spent considering other issues. I can guarantee if we dealt with some other issues we would actually save NHS money and airtime.

There we go, my Starkey moment,

Calm down dear.

FTD.